Wednesday, 11 January 2017

11th January 1817: A Nottingham magistrates reports that a Luddite has been arrested & intends to turn informer

My Lord

I beg leave to acquaint your Lordship that some circumstances have occurred in this neighbourhood within the last few days, which I have every reason to hope will lead to the detection of those persons, most deeply conquered in that system of outrage, which has so long prevailed in this county. John Blackburn of the Town of Nottingham Framework knitter was apprehended on Friday Morng the 3rd of this month being one of a gang of ten men, who armed & disguised, were attacking the house of William Cook Gamekeeper to Lord Middleton. As the nearest magistrate I was called upon to investigate the business, & soon found the prisoner to be one of the principal Luddites, which I gave him to understand I was aware of; when convinced his character was known, he appeared very anxious to be allowed to impeach persons with him at Cooks, especially if his own life might be spared; he soon made a voluntary confession, & gave information against them all; upon finding they were not the persons most deeply implicated in the practice of Framebreaking I impressed him with the idea, that nothing would save his life, but a full disclosure of all he knew against those with whom he had been so long & so closely connected; this at first he positively refused, but subsequently complied with, & will undertake to appear against the most desperate gang we have to contend with, conditionally; that in the mean time his family be placed in safety, & an assurance given him from his Majestys Government that his life will be saved. From a long conversation I had yesterday with this man, I feel convinced in my own mind, he not only is willing, but able to bring these persons to justice, as he admits himself to have been generally present when any thing desperate was perpetrated, especially at Loughborough & New Radford. As these particulars appeared to me of the utmost importance I have not hesitated in laying them before your Lordship more especially as Blackburn expresses his opinion, that should we happily succeed in bringing these men to the punishment they have so long deserved, it will be the means, if not of entirely suppressing, at least greatly checking the system of Luddism. Waiting your Lordships commands,

I am [etc]
Lanct. Rolleston

Watnall Nottinghamshire
Jany 11th, 1817

No individual but myself is acquainted with these circumstances, as I am convinced the desired result cannot be obtained, except by the greatest caution & secrecy.

This letter can be found at HO 40/9.

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